When Toronto350 graded the federal Speech from the Throne in September 2020, we considered whether it represented an appropriate response to the interlocking health, economic and climate crises. The 2021 Budget puts funding behind the Throne Speech’s promises, and so we ask again, does this Budget support Canadians in a just recovery and a transition to a low-carbon economy?
In mid-March, we began this seven-part series on the upcoming federal Budget with a self-evident statement, “COVID-19 has shown us that people’s health and wellbeing must be prioritized.” Events of the last weeks have underlined this truth with devastating clarity. Even as a disastrous third wave destroys lives and families, overwhelmingly in working class and racialized communities, access to vaccinations has been grossly uneven, favouring the affluent.
On the brink of Monday’s Budget, the need for strong social infrastructure, and a resilient, sustainable economy that supports a livable future in the midst of ongoing and coming crises, has never been greater.
Canada’s use and export of fossil fuels contributes disproportionately to the costs and damages caused by GHG emissions. Extracting and exporting resources has made the country wealthy. At the same time, countries that have benefited the least from extractive economies are experiencing impacts, like food insecurity and forced migration, first and most. Canada needs to do its fair share to redress both social and ecological harms, contributing to an equitable and just transition globally.
Canada continues to lose more critical land, freshwater and oceanic habitats than it conserves every year. Habitat loss problematically increases ecosystem GHG emissions through the release of ecosystem carbon, reductions in the carbon storage capacity of our landscapes, and the loss of critical climate adaptation and resilience services. Canada’s response to the biodiversity crisis is being significantly limited by these feedback loops. These impacts are also limiting Canada's ability to leverage nature-based solutions to help meet our climate change adaptation and mitigation goals.
At the same time, ongoing colonialism continues to override Indigenous rights and land stewardship. We see this evidenced across the country as Indigenous land-defenders stand on the frontlines, confronting destructive projects that are backed by industry and government. Ongoing environmental racism also shows in high pollution rates, as seen in Grassy Narrows and Canada’s Chemical Valley.
Systems that perpetuate harm need to be called out and ended at the same time investments in programs like Indigenous Land Guardians, projects like those highlighted in Power to the People and support for non-market mechanisms that ensure biodiversity protection increase. As noted in the Indigenous Leadership Initiative blogpost, UN Biodiversity Report Calls for Greater Role for Indigenous Peoples, “If Canada places Indigenous-led conservation at the core of its biodiversity approach, we can sustain even more lands and waters.” 
The rate of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves is 40 per cent higher than in the general Canadian population. Indigenous people living in urban areas have been similarly hard-hit. The crisis represents another in a long series of failures of the Canadian state to achieve justice and reconciliation with first peoples. For an effective recovery, Canada must renew its commitment to upholding Indigenous sovereignty, laws, values, customs and traditions by investing in Indigenous communities. Collaboration and partnership will be required to develop and enact solutions that adequately address the needs of Indigenous communities.
Here is a version of our budget submission part 4 of 7, with some simple calls to action that you can take added in.
Art by Corrina Keeling for justrecoveryforall.caRead more
Decarbonizing Canada is a critical step to ensure a climate-safe and resilient future. An effective National Decarbonization Strategy can help us build back better, creating inclusive, green communities and quality green jobs (e.g. jobs in renewable energy). This strategy must include equitable partnerships with Indigenous communities, investing in renewable energy projects on Indigenous homelands and continuing to expand Indigenous ownership.
Here is a version of our budget submission part 3 of 7, with some simple calls to action that you can take added in.
COVID-19 has shown us that people’s health and wellbeing must be prioritized. It has highlighted the need for strong social infrastructure and a resilient, sustainable economy that supports a livable future in the midst of ongoing and coming crises. To achieve this livable future, a low-carbon economy that ensures worker’s rights and the good of communities is a must.
Art by Corinna Keeling - see justrecoveryforall.caRead more
To all Canadians,
Our government in Ottawa proposes to order 88 fighter jets at a cost of over $19 billion. This comes at a time when we are investing in a recovery from CoVID-19 and aiming to slow down the effects of climate breakdown. Therefore, only projects which sustain the health, safety, and well-being of people and the planet can be justified in these difficult times.Read more
Throne Speech Promises Interim Report - November 12, 2020
We've been tracking actions the federal government has taken (or failed to take) since the throne speech on September 23rd! See a small section of the report below. Click here for the full Interim Report!
*Promises that were made are highlighted in green.
*Suggested actions not explicitly mentioned in speech are highlighted in Red.
1) Health and Wellbeing - Puts people's health and wellbeing first. No exceptions.
a) Protects the Environment
|Action||Pass √ Fail X||Notes|
X - G20 energy communiqué sign-on.
√ - Signed Leaders Pledge for Nature.
X - Haven’t met current pledges yet.
X - Haven’t shown effective national leadership.
Shift away from harmful industry.
X - Need to move economy, global trade, and subsidies away from destructive practises.
Respect Indigenous land stewardship, sovereignty, laws, values.
X - Indigenous land rights violations.
X - Need to centre Indigenous Land Stewardship.
Use nature-based solutions(plant trees).
X - Tree-planting delayed.
N1 - Initiated by Saudi Arabia, the G20 energy communiqué includes fossil fuel bailouts, doesn’t mention Fossil Fuel subsidies, and endorses a “circular economy” strategy that depends a lot on unproven carbon capture methods, distracting from what is actually needed: a reduction of emissions.
N2 - Next UN General Assembly High Level Week in September 2021, will review progress and reaffirm.
N3 - “To address and alleviate human rights questions, social justice issues, and conservation challenges, the Global Safety Net calls for better protection for Indigenous communities….” (1) Yet, from coast to coast, we see Indigenous communities trying to protect land and water subjected to rights violations.
N4 - “Environmentalism and Indigenous rights must go hand in hand. Those who have stewarded these lands for thousands of years hold the knowledge and relationships key to carrying forward the legacy of thriving ecosystems.” “....sovereignty claims are inextricably linked to the health and sustainability of the lands and waters they care for.” (2)
- Countries Miss All 20 Targets Under UN Biodiversity Convention
- Indigenous Stewardship is true Conservation: We Need to Move Beyond Eco-Colonialism - Maia Wikler, October 30, 2020, raventrust.com
N5 - No trees planted and no money allotted to the tree-planting program in 2019.
Click here for the full Interim Report!
On Wednesday, September 23rd, our government delivered its highly anticipated Throne Speech to unveil post-pandemic recovery plans. You can find the throne speech here.
This moment in history is an unprecedented chance to #BuildBackBetter and insist on a #JustRecoveryforAll and a livable future.
This means acting on the climate crisis and no longer funding destructive industry. It means helping workers and communities during a Just Transition to a circular economy of care. It means acting for racial justice and insisting that people and planet are no longer harmed and devalued. We must have a greener, healthier and equitable future! The time is now.
As part of the week for climate action, spearheaded by Fridays for Future Toronto (FFFTO) and culminating in the Global Day of Climate Action, Toronto350 has weighed in on how the Throne Speech stacks up next to a Green & Just Recovery, and issued the Report Card below.
A grade of "A" would meet expectations and far exceed them, "B" meets the expectations, "C" meets some but falls short and an "F doesn't meet any.
See an excerpt from our Report Card Comments below.
1) Put people's HEALTH & WELLBEING first. No exceptions.
• Protects the Environment: GRADE C
The Climate Crisis is a health crisis! As the throne speech reinforced, “Canadians [know] climate change threatens our health, way of life, and planet. They want climate action now, and that is what the Government will continue to deliver.” So far though, the Government actually hasn’t delivered enough climate action and commitments fall short of what is needed to protect the environment.
Some of the commitments in the speech, following the acknowledgment “of the importance of nature” include:
- expand urban green spaces
- meet prior commitment to protect a quarter of the country’s lands and waters
- use nature-based solutions to address the climate crisis (i.e. fulfill program to plant 2 billion trees)
While these are important steps for ensuring an intact ecosystem and protecting peoples’ health and wellbeing, we need significant action to protect biodiversity and create nature-based carbon sinks like those represented by the Boreal Forest and agroecology. The speech doesn’t fully address industrial practises that harm nature. It also does not acknowledge Indigenous land stewardship....
For more comments and Watch Party Asides see Report Card Comments!
Stay tuned for:
- Additional Responses
- Video Response: Parent-Teacher Interview
- Printable posters to share in your neighbourhood
- Social media graphics & posts
Click here for more on TO350’s Grading Touchstones framed by the Just Recovery Principles.